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Everything posted by Temeculaguy

  1. got a royal up a week or two prior, one while walking to the ship (had to scramble and get a porter to hand write the luggage tags and discard my printed ones) and another when I was told I didn't get it an hour after we departed. My guess is you are close but didn't get it however if someone is a no show or a late cancellation, you still may get it. I can also say it is pretty random, the one I got last minute my brother in law got his days earlier, we paid the same, had the same room and bid the same. His last name is alphabetically before mine but other than that something in their computer broke the tie in his favor for the unsold room and I got what appears to be the cancellation room. It happened during a covid surge and I assume there were lots of cancellations. Then again we both got royal ups in Alaska this last summer and the ship was sold out of suites for months online and sold out a week before of every room right up to sailing so some may have cancelled a week out because we got them too early for covid cancellations or airline snafus, both of which were prevalent at the time. Or it's just full of random wonkiness. Just stay loose, you never know, be prepared to enjoy the room you booked and also for the royal up.
  2. This could be a cultural thing, In European countries (Canada sometimes included, except Vancouver in my experience) the service staff are paid better and tipping isn't the majority of their pay. In the US and Mexico, tip income can exceed their paychecks. We frequent all inclusive resorts in Mexico and Europeans and some Canadians complain on review sites that the staff favors the Mexicans and Americans who tip 20% while they follow the resort's website that insists tips are included in their room rate. I blame the resorts or TA's, just be honest, most people will adapt to local customs when traveling if they are informed even if it is different from their home country. My son lived and worked in Asia for a few years and when we visited he constantly scolded us because we tipped our normal percentage for taxis, waiters and other service staff which was apparently not culturally appropriate. But we were in a very inexpensive country (vietnam) and tipping the cab driver the equivalent of a dollar felt insignificant because the fare was only $2. I just blamed it on the confusion over the exchange rate being 23,000 dong to one dollar and my lack of the various denominations. If a meal for two was 120,000 and I left 200,000, yes its an exorbitant tip but it is only $9 and 200k bills ($4.50) is the smallest bill I had, plus everyone is really nice to me. Pesos I'm better with, one peso is about a nickel, my brain can figure that out, but 1 dong equaling .0043 cents, I'm lost. Somebody is getting a big tip.
  3. I like your wife and haven't met her. I give my wife $100 in ones per cruise and tell her tip $2 a drink, but I never thought about the cleaning staff, I'm going to copy you but I'll give you full credit for the idea. We leave tips in WJ but we are never around to see the reaction, I like your approach.
  4. I've been on 5 cruises since 2020 with royal, envelopes every time, this last cruise I had to request extra envelopes. I do the automatic tipping and also use the envelopes for the standouts. This recent cruise two weeks ago to Alaska on Radiance, we had a bunch of standouts. It's an older ship but boy did we had some staff that were exceptional. Palmed them each a $20 mid cruise and then again in an envelope at the end. I was worried as this was the first full capacity ship we have been on in a while and commenters mentioned staffing issues, we saw none of that, might have been the best staff we've ever encountered. My BIL is an Indian food junkie, these waiters were bringing him off menu items, likely from the staff dining room that had him blown away. The manager and Matre di, were on a first name basis with us by the end of the week and we all used the envelopes accordingly. We booked another cruise while onboard and I bought more stock in the company, I don't see the envelopes as offensive, I see them as obligatory for what is a reward for service that unfortunately an anomaly at my local restaurants. For perspective, we went out last weekend locally with three couples, $750 tab $150 tip, for just okay service. That's close to my tip for a week of service on RCL for dining, that is a bargain by comparison.
  5. $66.99 for a bogo on Anthem may 23 transatlantic. I'm torn, I've always gotten the DBX but now as diamond and in a suite and prime in the casino I've got 4 free drinks a day for diamond, plus free drinks in the casino, free drinks in the suite lounge and the diamond lounge, not sure it pencils out to get the package. Also we have the dining package and will specialty dine all 11 nights with 40% off wines by the bottle and we are primarily wine drinkers. A bottle of Kendall Jackson cab is like $35 after the discount (normally $13 a galss), not sure I can justify 130 a day above the freebies when 2 bottles alone does us in at half the price despite 7 sea days. If they are still giving 4 drinks a day for diamond by then it will influence my decision, 2k is a lot for the package and after a few days of drinking a lot we tend to taper off. On a 3 or 4 day cruise, sure, but for an 11? I probably don't have the stamina.
  6. My brother in law doesn't drink alcohol and always gets the non alcoholic package. He gets diet coke at every venue or restaurant at no cost and i've never seen him use the souvenir cup. They are super accommodating. But then again I think he gets the package that includes coffee and everything non alcoholic and not just the soda package, which isn't much more $ than the soda package. But from my observation they are pretty cool about soda.
  7. Just get passports for everyone, I also recommend global entry which comes with tsa precheck and sentri for $100 for 5 years also get the passport card . This will sound elitist, but if you cannot afford the passports you cannot afford the trip. I was firmly middle class when my kids were young and in their teens, prior to that we could not afford travel. They have had passports since about age 11 and now they are nearing 30. One lived and worked overseas for years and between the two they have visited at least 20 countries each. I consider a 4 year university education and a passport as the gold standard of what you should strive to provide for your children, not of equal cost but of equal importance. But then again I consider passports the best value of tuition in the education of life.
  8. We were on liberty (I think) out of galveston in January and they had the outdoor Cigars under the stars. The upper pool deck area where the 2nd or 3rd floor bar is above the pools had couches and tables and that bar stayed open and even sold cigars. It seemed the perfect place, nowhere near any rooms and nobody was up there at night other than cigar smokers. I didn't have one but could sit with friends who did and it didn't bother me at all. But then again I like the smell of cigars and pipes vs cigarettes and I don't really care in the casinos as they seem well ventilated since the pandemic hit. I do know the president said at a shareholder conference call they have tried making some ships or sailing non smoking casino and they lose money every time despite what non smokers and bothered by smoke people say, they are outspent by the smokers every time.
  9. Everything listed is liked and used by someone in our group as we usually go with other couples in their 50's with different likes or with our adult kids and grand kids. Recently we cruised with about 20 friends and family and I liked that everyone can find something on RCL, unlike some luxury lines where we can only really go with our peers in age and financial situation. What I've never seen anyone in our groups enjoy is the art shows, we've bought art while traveling but not on the ship and I've never actually met anyone who bought it on a cruise. I'm sure it appeals to some or they wouldn't do it.
  10. We were asked for our physical card on all our earlier cruises that started in Galveston and Nassau and everyone had the actual card out. In March 2022 we boarded in Los Angeles, completely different, most used the California APP or similar QR code APP. Los Angeles county and it's 8 million people had to show their cards to go into restaurants and other public places, not just large events and hospitals but just to live their daily lives, those people's cards are probably unreadable by now and it's quicker to scan a qr code than to look at a hand written card. Part of me thinks it's just that port so we are bringing our physical cards next week to Alaska. I felt like others but in March I brought my adult children and their spouses, 2 of the 4 hadn't seen their card or needed their card for a year, they always use the app. I made them go to where they got their shots and get duplicate physical cards because I thought cruises needed them. But when we got there they happily pointed out everyone was using the app.
  11. I've found Kendall Jackson cab on four different ships in the last 18 months, just within the DBX limit and all of our fav amongst the included reds. They ran out on a few of our sailings, but slipping the waiter a $20 miraculously resulted in a found bottle here and there. Suite or diamond lounge never seemed to run out of the better wines. Vintages was iffy in August of 2021, seemed to improve as time went on. I stopped looking at the app, each bar/restaurant had different selections from the app and there is fun in the easter egg hunt of knowing where and when you could find what.
  12. Have some perspective, covid today isn't covid of 2020. I have 4,500 employees, in 2020, a few died and about every 20th one to get covid was hospitalized, Many were in the ICU, it was no joke. In 2022, I've had over a thousand catch it this year not a single hospitalization. These last few weeks at any one time 100 have it, 10 a day come back, 10 go out, I give them all free 2 weeks of paid leave if they test positive and it does not come out of their regular leave balances so as to not encourage people working sick so it is not under reported and I get daily reports. In January this year me and my three Moderna shots, wore a mask, still caught it. Wife got it in June, same shots. So why would I give a a darn about covid, masks, or tests, we caught it six months apart, had our shots at the same time, still shared a bed while we were sick, still kissed goodnight and didn't even give it to each other either time. Just stop the testing, I'll walk into a covid ward and kiss everyone there, nothing can stop it and I am not afraid of it. Even the head of county USC hospital in Los Angeles (the furthest from right wing conspiracy theorists you can find), in a county reimposing masks said that almost nobody in the hospital with covid is in the hospital because of covid. It's over! P.S., my employees are about 65-70% vaccinated, in 2022 there is no discernible difference in their odds of catching it or how serious it is based vaccine status or mask wearing or prior infection, not in catching it or catching it twice. What was true on 2020 and 2021 is not applicable to 2022 My study, because of workman's comp is in depth and is as big or bigger than other studies you read online and from my data, nothing stops it and its no big deal if you get it. If you are on death's doorstep or scared to death, stay home. It's endemic and it is the common cold now, let's move on, nobody was wrong and nobody was right, stop blaming but do accept that it is over.
  13. This is where I disagree but I had a bad experience that may skew my opinion. We had booked premium economy flights to rome, 3 days of an air bnb before and after a 7 day MSC cruise of the med all pre covid for late March 2020. We bought the insurance from MSC and from Luftansa. Flights and cruise were both cancelled, airline gave us credits, cruise and air bnb gave us refunds, but insurance gave us nothing and kept the premiums. Reputable insurance companies as well, their response was the insurance doesn't kick in until trip starts, since it never started, they keep our money since the world fell apart two days before trip started. Insurance wasn't cheap, I'll never buy it again. To me it's personal, I'm well off and I travel regularly, I'm exactly who they want as a customer and when they got scared they screwed me (luftansa kept my money for my seat upgrades to first class as well) so I have a list and I'm sticking to it. I vote with my wallet, even if I believe in the concept of travel insurance, they lost me forever. MSC was great but I'm loyal to Royal now so unfortunately I won't go on MSC ever just because the company who they aligned their insurance with. Royal has been accommodating during challenges and thus has earned my loyalty. Me and my demographic should go with a premium line next, but other than a river cruise that royal doesn't offer were staying with Royal because of how they acted when the chips were down. It speaks volumes and in the end it's how you treat people, royal has treated us well, despite multiple lifts and shifts and cancellations outside of their control. Now I'm a shareholder and continue to add to my position, I truly believe on this company based on how I'm treated as a customer.
  14. I just watched a Ben and David video on youtube who wanted to find out if nassau was really the worst port RCL visited as polls suggested. They went to Margaritaville and loved it. Even without kids/grandkids it appears that it is a game changer.
  15. Sentri is the VIP of the southern border with Mexico, comes free with GE but not with TSA precheck. Only applies to land crossing on foot or by car so not everyone will benefit. In San Diego it's a big deal, but outside of border towns it's probably not that big of a deal. For us, El Valle de guadelupe is a foodie and wine region we like to visit and just an hour or so drive, if you go with another couple and you don't have sentri, you literally cant go in their car or all of you have to go in the regular lanes and wait hours. Same as on foot, non sentri people aren't invited or they slow up the group. It is hard to explain to people who don't live on a border. You get invited to events on both sides, botox is half the price, people without dental insurance or rx benefits go there for the deals, then there's just the weekend or day trips. I realize it freaks some people out if you don't speak Spanish or only know what you read, but we live in a region with 3 million people on one side and another 2 million on the other, all within a few miles of each other. It's a region, yet two countries, its a New Jersey/New York or a Minneapolis/St paul or a Vancouver/Seattle. Being able to move between the two without hassle is a real convenience to locals but not to everyone else. Yet I still wonder why anyone would get TSA pre check and not spend the extra $15 to get GE, if just for the customs benefit for international flights.
  16. side question but along the same lines, we have an alaska cruise in August in a JS on Radiance, when we booked we we under the impression we would get 4x points, making us diamond after that cruise. All our previous cruises post pandemic were GS or OS and we got 4x points, double points when we booked under the promotion and double again for suites. Then I read one of the articles that said you get 2x for JS only on quantum or oasis class. We got got 4x on non quantum/oasis but were higher than JS so I may have calculated this incorrectly. now I'm doubting that will happen.
  17. I'm a huge fan of global entry, only $15 more than TSA precheck ($3 more a year) and includes TSA pre-check and Sentri. TSA IS $85 but everything comes with global for $100 for 5 years and global gets you to breeze through customs. In little airports it's not as big of a deal but we live between 4 international airports (LAX, San Diego, Ontario and Orange County) and the international prices are usually best at LAX, sometimes by 30% but customs is atrocious (we've been in line for 2-3 hours after a 20 hour flight). While TSA/global is nice at regional or medium sized airports, total game changer at top ten in the world airport https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_busiest_airports_by_passenger_traffic 7 of the 10 are in the US, of course pandemic travel skewed things but atlanta, chicago, los angeles were pre pandemic powerhouses. Looking at the top 20 its all US and china plus mexico city, I was in mexico city a few weeks ago, its pretty efficient as are most of the top 20, phoenix, houston and vegas I think are great. But if you have to travel through Chicago, Atlanta or LA, get global entry. It's worth the in person interview to acquire it. But i live close to mexico and have crossed via car and on foot at least once a year, sentri is a godsend, also included in global but not included with TSA. So if you only travel domestically then I guess TSA by itself saves you $3 a year, go for it, bit it's not for me as an a la carte purchase.
  18. We've done land based all inclusive hotels and cruised during hurricane season, I prefer cruises as they can outrun or adapt to the weather while we were sitting ducks at a resort.
  19. This is really good advice, I generally pay in full asap because once I almost lost my price because of a small balance due on an alaska cruise in peak season when rates had quadrupled since I booked. But now I realize a midsummer Alaska cruise is an anomaly and holding back might have it's advantages. Thanks
  20. We stayed in Nassau prior to the restart when Royal was sidestepping the CDC by not touching the US and sailing out of Nassau. In my opinion, that port had very little to offer by comparison to other ports . We did knock around town, dine at out our hotel at the colonial hilton and made the best of it. Perhaps it was the mid covid experience that soured us on the bahamas (freeport was even worse) but I found both ports as not worth the effort of getting off and rank them as the two worst ports RCl visits. As a reference point, we find fun in most places, including Ensenada and Costa Maya, two ports that that don't receive high marks but we still enjoy them. I am intrigued by margaritaville, it wasn't open yet when we visited and we are going there next year. If I had grandkids with me we would have gone to Atlantis but I like that royal is exploring/investing in a bahamas private experience in Nassau to make it more marketable.
  21. everything looks pre pandemic to me. Our alaska cruise in 3 weeks is sold out except for one room, the 12k royal suite. I searched cruises from San Diego which is most convenient for us and the 2023 panama canal is sold out except for inside rooms. Our May 2023 transatlantic that we booked in jan of 2022 for a GS on is sold out for suites. Not sure if it is revenge travel or a glut of FCC but it is a struggle getting rooms. Were trying to book our 2024 cruises and it's a struggle and pricey. Same GS we booked an 11 day transatlantic costs more for a 7 day coco cay, bahamas out of new jersey on the same ship , same port, less days for 2024. The only consolation prize is my RCl stock should bridge the gap as it seems to me cruising is back with a vengance, now if I can only get my CCl stock to cooperate in a similar manner.
  22. Perhaps we've just been lucky but I suggest you look at your insurance card and call the international or travel number on the back of the card. We never asked for or requested travel coverage on our employer provided HMO health insurance but found both our Anthem Blue Cross years ago and our current Kaiser plans had it included. The two times we used it we had to pay the international provider then months later got reimbursed (mostly). It ended up costing more than our co-pay at home but they reimbursed me for most of the bill. My parents recently were on a cruise on another line and their medicare advantage Kaiser was accepted by the Ship's doctor. Another factor to consider is where you are traveling to? Some countries have very inexpensive medical services. My son was in Vietnam, caught dengue fever and spent 5 nights in the hospital, private room, private nurse, in an english speaking "american" hospital. Total bill was 3K. We got all but about $800 back and some of that was because we chose a private room and a private nurse who had only my son as a patient. Those were my decisions and I was completely fine not being reimbursed for that $100 a day fee, otherwise our cost would have been $300, which is 10%. Now if he was in a different country when this happened, we may have to add a zero or two at the end of the numbers I quoted, changing the benefit of the add on travel insurance.
  23. Best deal I ever got was booking onboard via nextcruise. I need to book a Feb 2024 cruise for a family members birthday and am waiting until I'm onboard next month in hopes that it is a better deal, 'I've found it is the same price but you get more OBC, hundreds more. But like has been mentioned, know the website price before boarding.
  24. I wear a tux on the first formal night, if it is not a tropical locale and not hot and humid, tux for both. I own a tux, have owned one since I was 19 and like others have said about who they dress for, I wear one for my wife not for me. I'm 54 and on my third tux in my lifetime, they are not super expensive to buy and if you get a classic black one, they never go out of style (the closet does shrink them every 10-15 years or at least that is what I tell myself). For cruises I just pack the jacket and a bow tie, regular black slacks, regular dress shirt, regular dress shoes, cummerbund optional. 1960 James Bond, 2020 James Bond, same tux, men are lucky in this regard and a few hundred bucks and you get 10+ years, the cost of two rentals. Started with fraternity/sorority formals, then weddings (mine , countless friends and two daughters so far, with one to go, cruises and charity black tie events), I've gotten my money's worth, plus my wife loves how I look in them and I get extra kisses when she sees me in it. I'm more casual than the next guy, flip flops and a nat nast are business casual here in So Cal, but I suggest you buy a tux. My wife spends hours getting ready for formal night, it seems a small task to break out my tux that takes no extra effort or cost than a suit or a sport coat.
  25. Worst advice I've ever received "you hardly spend any time in your room, get the cheapest available inside cabin."
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